April 21st, 2010
12:38 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Will Obama name a liberal to Supreme Court?

A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court.

A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court.

Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court, but only one in four want that to happen, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 61 percent of the public expect the president to nominate a liberal to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, 21 percent said the president will name a moderate and 16 percent predicted that Obama will nominate a conservative.

Full results (pdf)

But only a quarter of those questioned said the president should nominate a liberal, with 37 percent saying they want Obama to name a moderate and 36 percent pulling for a conservative candidate.

The poll's release comes one day before the president hosts Senate Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss the vacancy on the high court. Among the participants in the meeting will be the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will most likely hold confirmation hearings this summer.

Stevens, who turns 90 Tuesday, announced earlier this month that he would retire from the high court at the end of this session. Stevens is considered the leader of the liberal block of the court.

"If Obama appoints a liberal, that is likely to be seen as a way to shore up support in his own party," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But only 46 percent of Democrats want him to choose a liberal; 34 percent of Democrats want a moderate nominee and one in five want a conservative."

Not surprisingly, more than six in ten Republicans questioned in the survey want a conservative nominee, with three in ten saying they want the president to nominate at moderate and only 9 percent calling for Obama to choose a liberal.

One issue that is certain to come up at confirmation hearings is abortion. The survey indicates that 21 percent now say abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

"That's the lowest that number has been since 1985," Holland said.

Another 13 percent said abortion should be legal in most circumstances, and 42 percent said that should be the case in only a few circumstances. Just over one in five indicate abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 9-11, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (327 Responses)
  1. John

    Oh great, let the polls run the country!!

    April 21, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Bob

    Liberals are destoying this country! I don't believe any of them have read the constitution much less understand it. Only a conservative can function in this capacity and a only a Bible believing Christian conservative at that. This country was founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is the only way it will servive.

    April 21, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Doug,lib jersey

    Liberals on the ticker admitting that they and thier ideology never care what the American people want, wow.

    I guess that 4/20 partying has messed up their lib brains so much that they are commiting what they call a hate crime, being honest.

    Obama will choose a person who trashes the constitution and hopes to enslave Americans who are not liberals. He would love to choose Wright or Ayers.

    Almost every Democrat in America would cheer Osama Bin Laden for the Supreme Court if we would take a dump on the constition, that's your average Democrat.

    April 21, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  4. Pat

    Fairness? It is a weak and poor argument to justify picking a liberal vs a conservative just because what Bush did. It is the same weak excuse to justify spending just because Bush increase the budget deficit. Using that logic I guess its ok for me to do something stupid just because someone else go away with it.

    Obama – just pick a good judge that is not Liberal or not Conservative. Stop trying to make yourself look good by trying to pick out flaws in those that disagree. That is pretty weak too, but most people are closed minded with their views.

    April 21, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. TimTh

    @ Charlie B: and you want us to believe that the Bush / Cheney / Rove administration listened to anybody but their corporate buddies?

    Corrupt party? The Democratic Party? Wow, and who do you compare that too? It can't be the run down, angry, un-Democratic party of NO or No Way, that you have in mind here?

    Oh man, and I thought we had a democracy here in this country. Turns out we have more angry mobs, demagogue r/w talk show hosts and GOPers who'd rather see the current president fail than help the country to get back on track. Fine patriots you are!!

    April 21, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. American

    No doubt Obama will appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court. It will have a long-term negative impact on the country (his choice will decide cases on politics and not laws), but will provide a short term positive impact by taking his rubber stamp liberal Congress away from him for the rest of his presidency.

    April 21, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Ben

    Why not appoint a liberal? Bush appointed conservatives. As said elsewhere the scale of justice needs to balance the two. Having all conservatives is just as unjust as having all liberals. It takes two to tango.

    April 21, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Let Freedom Ring

    Who cares...just as long as he replaces someone that's comparable to the retired Supreme Court judge so that the balance of ideology is maintained, and the court isn't lopsided at one end. Besides, this may be the only opportunity he gets to appoint a judge that's heavily swayed to one side.

    April 21, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    He could nominate someone with the same mindset as Scalia and the GOP will still call the first nominee a "radical" and a "leftist" in hopes of scoring points with their imbecile base who clearly doesn't understand what the political spectrum truly is (seeing as how Obama and the Dems have clearly behaved overall in a slightly left of center manner since day 1). While the GOP courts the Tealiban and right wing extremists, it does exactly what it always does: blame the other side for precisely what it itself is doing. This is how the GOP tries to create the perception that it is, in fact, remaining in the center...all while moving right...and gets a good number of morons in this country to shift their own political views to the right out of fear and anger and disillusionment. So, just like the GOP is trying to do with public perception of what actually constitutes far left, center and far right, they will do with the first nominee....label him/her a "radical leftist activist" in hopes of forcing a more conservative choice than was already handed to them. The problem with the Dems, and it's always been their problem, is that they won't grow a spine and just tell the GOP to go frack itself with a broomstick handle.

    April 21, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Albert R. Killackey, Esq. Read my lips, No new Corporatist!

    Liberal vs. Conservative in nonsense! The struggle between people within our nation is identical to every struggle among all people of the world and throughout all human history; individualism vs. corporatism. The Flashpoint occurs when corporatist attempt to compel all in support of their cause which might be plans to achieve religious or cultural unity, raciest, sexist, or sexual-preference supremacy, and the granddaddy of corporatism; territorial and financial domination which exploits all other forms of corporatism to achieve its ends. Currently our Supreme Court is dominated by five corporatists who, in “Citizens United inc.,” claimed a Divine power to endow corporations with the same unalienable right of free speech endowed in all individuals by their Creator which means corporate political bribes cannot be regulated. In doing so, these Supreme Corporatist have acted under color of authority to aid domestic and global corporations to influence our lawmaking and elections by creating an environment which allows Corporatist to lay their bait in the way of civil officers who will be rewarded for bowing down to these graven images, i.e. corporate logos, or have to compete against others who will do so while running for office with corporate cash. For these five corporatist to claim corporations may not be regulated as such, when our Constitution makes clear that even militias which are charged with the security of a free State must be “well regulated,” demonstrates how obsessed they are in the cult of corporatism. Thus the issue before President Obama is what is in the best interest of We the People when he selects, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the next Supreme Court Justice? Does the nation which began with The Boston tea Party throwing three ships loads of global corporate cargo into Boston Harbor in order to protect the rights if individual merchants, farmers and people from a tea monopoly need another corporatist on the Court they established to protect the rights of individuals endowed in them by their Creator from the reach of majorities or are the interest of We the People better served by a person concerned about the rights of all people? Read my lips, No new Corporatist!

    April 21, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. Democrat dude is Ohio

    Liberal aka Socialists

    April 21, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. muhrvis

    What the public "wants" as "revealed" in a superficial poll is irrelevant. Most of the public wouldn't know a thing about the Supreme Court, the Constitution, or the American government except from what they've heard in partisan sound bites. The same people - namely, US - who have so many pompous things say about our system of government are the same ones that made it a mess in the first place with partisan bickering, superficial knowledge, selfish viewpoints, and fear-mongering.

    What we've learned about values and the Constitution from the recent justices is that showing videos of animals being tortured is freedom of speech, that large corporations should be allowed to contribute as much money as they want to political candidates, and so on.

    What's the point of following politics any more...

    April 21, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. gt

    GET HILLARY,,,,

    April 21, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. Ben

    Copying from the smartest kis in class – "The President must win re-election and then set up Hillary Clinton and another woman as his successor.

    I'd like to see Clinton move over to Secretary of Defense [if Gates retires]. I'd like to see Joe Biden on the re-election ticket and then move over to Secretary of State. President Obama should then name Jennifer Granholm as his VP.

    Granholm and Clinton can compete for the Presidency in the primary. They would win and control the White House for 16 years. Each could then make history by naming the 1st former President to the Supreme Court ... Barack H. Obama"

    What are you smoking? what kind of braindead logic is this? Jennifer Granholm? what has she ever done to deserve to be VP? She can't even run her own state and you want her to be VP?

    And don't even get me started on the sheer idiocy of naming Obama to the Supreme Court. I don't know what kind of fantasy world you live in, but you need to put the crack pipe down and step away from the ballet box.

    April 21, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Barbara

    I hope President Obama names a liberal to balance the court. There are too many conservatives on the court.

    April 21, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. Batting a 1000

    Who knows the Court doesn't care about American's either. After all they ruled that a corporation can throw as much money as they want at an election. That includes foreign companies like Citgo which is owned Chavez.. It is now against someone's free speech rights to sell doggie snuff films.

    April 21, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Dyan, Minnesota

    Bush put in activist hard-right conservatives that he claimed would be moderates. It's time to balance that with at least one, clear, strong liberal voice.

    April 21, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. Debby

    Obama will appoint whom he wants and thats it. He only has his own political career at interest right now and not the American people.

    April 21, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Ben

    Darth Vadik, CA April 21st, 2010 12:42 pm ET

    "We need another conservative, pro-business, anti-people judge like we need cancer and a brain tumor at the same time"

    That would be infinitely better that what Obama's shoving down our throats to please you and you loser Lib friends.

    April 21, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. woodfly

    These telephone polls are becoming less and less credible. Unless there is a concerted effort to capture cell phone users, they ignore a large proportion of the more liberal X and Y generations (how many people under the age of 30 do you know that even have land lines called by these pollsters?). Note that land line users tend to be older, poorer, and more conservative so a poll taken by phone should track that way.
    The same thing happened with the polls before the 2008 election – they missed a very energized younger set of voters who went largely for Obama. So, show me a poll that gives a full cross-section of the nation, and I'll give it's results a lot more credit.

    April 21, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. Florence

    We should have at least one agnostic on the Supreme Court with no political affiliation to either Republicans or Democrats and with no linkage to any corporations and/or large businesses. I just don’t get it – our courts are supposed to be free of political and religious bias. That is why Lady Justice is blind folded. We have politicians in our White House, in both the Congress and the Senate, while our Supreme Court is supposed to be broadminded and make sure to protect us by keeping their eye on them and by interpreting our Constitution without any prejudice. Why don’t the American people understand this and demand it?

    April 21, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. BS President Misleading Americans

    Why not, Obama has done sooooo much damage to America already that it doesn't really make a difference. November will change this and it can't get here fast enough.

    The uneducated, ignorant liberals being the racists they are never stand a chance in November. Obama has lied over and over to this Country. How long is it going to take before the other 30% of Obama supporters see the real truth about him and begin to find their brain?

    April 21, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Phil in KC

    We need another liberal to provide balance. Right now, the court is too conservative. Look at their decision in favor of lobbyists who can now buy votes openly.
    The Republicans always say they are in favor of personal freedoms, but it is the liberal side of the court which truly protects the freedoms of ordinary Americans.

    April 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. Daniel

    Stupid comments abound here. The President may appoint anyone he/she wishes to appoint to the court, with the approval of a majority of the Senate. That's that! End of story.

    April 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. TimTh

    @@ tesss: nice vocabulary. Can't wait til 2012? Oh boy, you'll be old and wrinkley then, eaten up by your anger. We'll enjoy the view.

    April 21, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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